Over the Atlantic in the dark of night, the electronic brain of Pangia Airlines Flight 10 quietly and without warning disconnects all the cockpit controls and reverses course on its own.
The crew of the huge Airbus 330 at first sense nothing, the flight displays still showing them on course to New York. But with puzzled passengers reporting stars on the wrong side and growing alarm over the sudden failure of all their radios – and when armed fighters pull alongside to force them to land – the confused pilots discover that Flight 10 is streaking back toward the hyper-volatile Middle East and there is nothing they can do about it.
With an alphabet soup of federal agencies struggling for answers and messages flying between Washington, and Tel Aviv where the flight began, the growing supposition that Flight 10 may be hijacked is fueled by the presence of a feared and hated former head of state sitting in first class, a man with an extreme Mid East agenda who may somehow be responsible for the Airbus A-330’s loss of control. As frantic speculation spreads, the possibility that the unresponsive airliner could be the leading edge of a sophisticated attack on Iran designed to provoke a nuclear response drives increasingly desperate decisions.
As time and fuel runs low, flying at full throttle toward a hostile border ahead, Captain Jerry Tollefson and First Officer Dan Horneman have to put their personal animosities aside and risk everything to wrest control from the electronic ghost holding them – and perhaps the world – on a course to certain disaster.
And in the “Hole” – as the war room in Tel Aviv is called – the interim Prime Minister of Israel grapples with a horrifying choice in the balance between 300 airborne lives and the probability of nuclear war.
Praise for LOCKOUT:
“John Nance has added another intriguing volume to his body of work. This fascinating story of technology gone awry, rich with accurate detail, satisfies and terrifies as it takes the reader on a wild ride through the night sky on an airliner no one on board can control.”—Captain Sully Sullenberger, author of #1 New York Times Bestseller SULLY, and MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Stories of Vision and Courage from America’s Leaders; pilot of US Airways 1549, “Miracle on the Hudson”
“Once again, John Nance has provided a Mach-speed, high altitude page-turner in the form of a modern-day aviation thriller. Packed into the flight plan of “Lockout” are very real challenges faced by today’s airline pilot. Captain Nance has done his homework. Both pilots and passengers will enjoy the suspense. Pay attention to the seat belt sign and buckle in!” – Les Abend, Contributing Editor/FLYING MAGAZINE, Contributor/CNN.com, On-air Aviation Analyst/CNN
From the Author:
It’s just a matter of time!
That phrase is often grossly misused these days to foreshadow some future threat (such as the scandalously false statement: It’s just a matter of time before a toy drone takes out an airliner!). But as we move to increasing automation and build our incredible, highly reliable air machines to need humans (read: Carbon-Based Units) less and less, there will be some conflicts that could be described as inevitable.
Several weeks after 9/11, President George W. Bush stood on the ramp at Chicago O’Hare in front of the cameras and fell victim to one of the worst pieces of presidential staff work in recent history. He declared that in the future we would have devices built in to all airliners that would enable air traffic controllers on the ground to seize control of a hijacked flight and land it remotely like a drone. Most aviation professionals did a collective spit-take in response! That grossly improbable declaration sparked my 2003 thriller SKYHOOK.
So what’s wrong with the idea? For one thing, very few of our hardworking and highly skilled air traffic controllers are pilots who could fly an airliner remotely without extensive and continuous training. And, of course, there were a few additional problems, such as the tens of billions of dollars such a program would cost, and the fact that if we could take control from the ground, so could a sophisticated terrorist.
But we’re now flying incredibly sophisticated airliners that have few if any physical connections between the cockpit and the actual aircraft, other than wires and streams of electrons. What if that someday opens a door we don’t want opened? If an airborne fire is the first fear of a pilot, perhaps the second is a complete loss of control, and that’s precisely where, and why, LOCKOUT was born as a concept.
Yes, I’ve been on an eight year sabbatical from writing these high-speed, based-on-reality thrillers, but what spurred me back in the saddle (and to the laptop) was a rising sense of unease that I needed to get this story in front of you before it actually happens!
And, yes, I’m back. And there will be many more high-speed tales to follow. Including… well, we’ll save that for next year. Happy reading!